The Wellington Phoenix have stretched their unbeaten run to four matches to rise to third in the 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League.
The Phoenix have held on to draw 2-2 with Perth Glory at Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North, after being forced to play the majority of the second half with 10 men.
Centre back Tim Payne was controversially sent off shortly after halftime, following intervention from the video assistant referee.
The Nix had led 2-1 at halftime courtesy of Oskar Zawada’s fourth goal in as many games and Kosta Barbarouses’ second of the season.
The Glory equalised 10 minutes from fulltime and struck the crossbar twice in the dying stages, but Wellington held on for a share of the spoils.
Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay felt Payne should never have been shown a red card for his foul on Perth forward David Williams.
“I tried to have a look at it again in the changing room,” Talay told media post-game. “I thought 1. He [Williams] was never going to get to the ball and 2. I think Cal Elliot’s behind Payney as well to be able deal with it.
“Obviously the officials had a long look at it…and decided it was a red card which I thought was quite soft.”
Talay says the decision had a big impact on the game.
“We had to change our formation and we had to make a sub. I felt the boys did well. Just probably that last lapse…and they score the second.
“To be honest…I could possibly say we got a bit lucky. The ball hit the post a couple of times.
“The main thing was playing with 10 men we didn’t lose the game and we walk away with one point.”
Ufuk Talay made one enforced change to his starting XI, with Steven Ugarkovic replacing the injured Clayton Lewis at the base of the Phoenix midfield.
The Nix started the brighter of the two sides and didn’t have to wait long before they were rewarded for their dominance.
In the 11th minute Payne delivered a pinpoint deep cross that Zawada headed into the far corner of Perth’s goal.
It was the Polish striker’s seventh goal of the season – already more than the team’s golden boot from their last campaign.
Wellington doubled their lead just nine minutes later, with Barbarouses slotting home from 10 yards out after Glory ‘keeper Cameron Cook spilled Lucas Mauragis’ cross.
Hometown hero Alex Rufer threaded a great ball through to Mauragis, giving the left fullback space on the edge of the area for his first-time cutback.
Perth pulled a goal back moments later, with former David Williams nodding home a headed cross at the back post.
The Glory were energised by the goal and came closest to scoring again before halftime.
Oli Sail, who had lost his footing a couple of times on a treacherous pitch, produced a great reflex save in the 34th minute to prevent a deflection beating him at his near post.
Wellington’s best opportunity before the break again came from Mauragis. Cook was once more unable to hold on to his left-wing cross, but this time there was no Nix player to punish the goalkeeper’s mistake.
The Phoenix started the second half with just a one goal cushion, but it appeared comfortable. That changed little over 10 minutes after halftime when Payne was sent off for a foul on Williams on the edge of the Wellington box.
Referee Lachlan Keevers initially handed the Wellington centre back a yellow card before upgrading it a red after advice from the VAR.
Despite being a man down it was the Nix who came closest to scoring next.
Bozhidar Kraev found his way into the Glory box in the 69th minute after playing a neat one-two with Barbarouses and forced Cook to make a smart save.
Shortly after Sail was called into action at the other end of CET Arena, keeping out an awkward looping volley from Perth captain Mustafa Amini that was bound for the top corner of the Phoenix goal.
Williams drew the Glory level in the 80th minute, scoring his second of the match with a powerful diving header at the near post.
Zawada went down in the Perth box shortly after but referee Keevers waved away his appeals for a penalty and the crowd’s plea for VAR intervention were ignored.
The Glory came within inches of claiming all three points twice in the dying stages, rattling the crossbar in the final minute of the 90 and again in time added.
The Phoenix finished the match deep inside Perth’s half but were unable to create a final opening and both sides were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
The Wellington Phoenix now face four matches on the road in February, starting this Friday night when they visit the bottom of the table Melbourne Victory.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Oskar ZAWADA (31. Yan SASSE 89th), 10. David BALL (3. Finn SURMAN 57th), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (8. Ben OLD 72nd), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21. Joshua LAWS.
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 19. Sam SUTTON, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM.
Perth Glory: 13. Cameron COOK (gk), 2. John KOUTROUMNBIS (21. Antonee BURKE-GILROY 62nd), 5. Mark BEEVERS, 7. Ryan WILLIAMS (20. Giordano COLLI 86th), 8. Mustafa AMINI (c) (4. Luke BODNAR 77th), 15. Jordan ELSEY, 16. Keegan JELACIC, 18. David WILLIAMS, 19. Zachary DUNCAN (43. Adam ZIMARINO 63rd), 29. Darryl LACHMAN, 36. Joseph FORDE (3. Jacob DOWSE 62nd).
Unused substitutes: 30. Pierce CLARK, 37. Jacob MUIR.
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – 11th
7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (Wellington Phoenix) – 20th
18. David WILLIAMS (Perth Glory) – 22nd
18. David WILLIAMS (Perth Glory) – 80th
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 16th
19. Zachary DUNCAN (Perth Glory) – yellow – 35th
6. Tim PAYNE (Wellington Phoenix) – red – 56th
21. Antonee BURKE-GILROY (Perth Glory) – yellow – 64th
3. Jacob DOWSE (Perth Glory) – yellow – 90+6